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Sousa maintains lead in FIA World Cup

2003 BAJA SPAIN

For immediate release
Sunday, July 20th, 2003

MITSUBISHI'S SOUSA MAINTAINS LEAD
IN FIA WORLD DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP

Mayer finishes 11th; Victory for Frenchman Alphand

ZARAGOZA (Spain): Mitsubishi's Carlos Sousa maintained his outright lead in the FIA World Drivers' Championship by finishing seventh overall in the Baja Spain, the fifth round of this year's FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, which finished in Zaragoza on Saturday (July 19th).

At the wheel of a Mitsubishi L200 Strakar with support from TMN and Galp, the Portuguese driver overcame a series of brake problems and a flat tyre to add to his championship points' tally and maintain a 10-point lead in the FIA World Cup.

~I was disappointed with the way the race turned out,~ said Sousa, who also leads the FIA Trophy for Drivers of Bajas after his recent victory in Greece. ~But I am still leading the World Cup. It started to go wrong right from the start. I got caught in the dust behind Gregoire de Mevius when he had a flat tyre and drove slowly in front of me.

~Then I hit a rock and limped to the first assistance point. One of the other competitors didn't stop at the service and I got held up in the dust again. It was very frustrating.

~Then I collected a flat tyre myself 20 kms from the next service point and had to stop and change it and dropped around four minutes. When we changed the wheel we noticed there was a problem with the brakes and I arrived at the next service with zero brakes. I had brake trouble right to the end of the race. It was one of those weekends where he had little niggling problems. But I am delighted to still be leading the championship.~

The one-day, 800 kms Baja was held in searing heat and was won by Frenchman Luc Alphand in the first of three BMW X5 Rally Raids. The winner of the recent Baja Germany led from the Prologue on Friday evening and held off a fierce challenge from Dubai team mate Khalifa Al-Motaiwi, who eventually finished second overall.

Defending World Champion Jean-Louis Schlesser completed the podium places in third overall and managed to shave 15 points off Sousa's World Championship lead. BMW's Gregoire de Mevius was fourth, seven seconds behind Schlesser, and Nissan's Marco Tempestini completed the top five in a Pick-Up.

Germany's Andrea Mayer and her co-driver Andreas Schulz took part in a T2 diesel-engined Pajero and finished 11th overall, six minutes ahead of Ralliart team mates Jose-Luis Monterde and Rafael Tornabell in their Pajero. Spaniard Luis Climent was 10th in a privately-run Mitsubishi Pajero.

~My number was 399. By the time I started the Prologue the track was destroyed,~ said Mayer. ~I finished it in 16th position, but started 25th on the first stage. The dust was crazy. There were no chances to pass any cars and it was very tiring in the heat.

~Several of the top co-drivers were sick. It was much hotter than Morocco. When you drive for nine hours in one day it is exhausting, but I was pleased to finish 11th under the circumstances. It was a tough race. The track was very twisty and I needed to maintain my concentration.~

Mitsubishi Portugal will now enter Sousa in both the Masters Rally in August and the Por Las Pampas Rally in Argentina in September, as he bids to become the first ever Portuguese driver to win the FIA World Cup Drivers' Champion.

Saturday's 800 kms of competitive action followed Friday night's Prologue near Zaragoza, which determined starting orders. Temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Centigrade on Saturday and in-car temperatures were estimated to be around 70 degrees.

Baja Spain Final positions:
1. Luc Alphand (F)/Arnaud Debron (F) BMW X5 9h 06m 59.053s
2. Khalifa Al-Motaiwi (UAE)/Phillippe Tiefenbach (D) BMW X5 9h 18m 14.535s
3. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Dominique Comolli (F) Schlesser-Ford Raid 9h 22m 06.476s
4. Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 9h 22m 13.375s
5. Marco Tempestini (I)Giacomo Innocenti (I) Nissan Pick-Up 9h 29m 09.817s
6. Thierry Magnaldi (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Honda HRV 9h 35m 39.519s
7. Carlos Sousa (P)/Henri Magne (F) Mitsubishi L200 Strakar 9h 38m 49.394s
10. Luis Climent (E)/Lucas Cruz Serna (E) Mitsubishi Pajero 9h 43m 30.755s
11. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero 9h 45m 10.067s
12. Jose-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero 9h 51m 44.065s

Ends



Date issued: 20/07/2003

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